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T-Met Senior Football Championship

September 30, 2013

Maghery will have a real go at causing the upset

Crossmaglen Rangers v Maghery

Four in a row seeking County champions Crossmaglen Rangers up against back to back Division One League champions Maghery leaves us with arguably the best two teams currently in the county going head to head. Underdogs Maghery had no test the last time out, easily disposing of a very disappointing Carrickcruppen challenge 1-12 to 0-5. The Loughshore men were less than impressive when disposing of Killeavy 1-8 to 0-9.

The champions were to be put under the cosh by high flying Pearse Og who had demolished Dromintee 1-19 to 1-9 but once Cross got their first goal, through Martin Aherne after 20 minutes, it was game set and match to the champions. Cross were very sluggish in the first 10 minutes but once they settled they assumed complete control to run out 2-11 to 0-7 victors.

As everyone knows Rangers get better and stronger as the championship progresses and will have David McKenna available for selection against Maghery. The so called “depleted Cross team” that took on the Og’s had no fewer than 14 All-Ireland medal winners in their starting team and 8 players with Senior Inter-County experience.

The teams met in last year’s championship and the game was over as a contest after 18 minutes as Cross led 1-7 to 0-1 before going on to record a 1-14 to 1-9 win. Maghery will take heart from this defeat as they dominated for long periods, held Cross scoreless for 15 minutes, cut the deficit to 3 points and missed numerous scoring opportunities.

Conor Mackle, Stefan Cusack and Darragh McConville are the very formidable half-back line upon which their team’s success has been built. The defensive trio forms a solid barrier behind a strong midfield pairing of James Lavery and Stephen Fox. Shay Tennyson drops into the sweeper’s role leaving the Forker’s Aidan, Stefan, Paul, David Lavery and Eamon Cusack to come up with the match winning scores. Maghery won the league encounter on home soil 0-16 to 1-10.

The contribution of the Kernan brothers to the Rangers cause can never be understated or underestimated as they provide the strong link between the past and present teams. The consistency of their performances since donning the Senior jersey has been phenomenal.  When the chips have been down Aaron, Stephen and Tony have risen to the occasion and on the last showing they are once again key figures in the equation. Paul Hughes, Paul McKeown and Stephen Finnegan in the last line of defence never put a foot wrong against the Og’s. After a very shaky start the Rangers half-back line settled but it was midfielder Johnny Hanratty who dictated the play with some great distribution and gobbling up of the loose ball. Kyle Carragher is now the main attacking fulcrum with Brennan, Cunningham, Cumiskey and the versatile Aherne all linking well.

Cross will know that they will have to step up a gear on their last championship outing to get over this formidable hurdle. Discipline could be a key factor for both sides as I expect this game to reach true championship pace from the outset. Cross will probably shuffle the pack from the last starting 15 and still have the ability to influence the game from the bench should things not be going their way. Maghery have failed to deliver on the championship stage and will need everyone in top form to topple the champions. Cross are not as physically assertive as they used to be but are very street wise and comfortable with the ball. I expect this contest to be a very close run affair with Hearty commanding his full-back line to a match winning performance by shutting out the Forker threat. Captain Tony Kernan to point his team through to another County Final as his charges seem better equipped, but will have to be very wary of what is a more serious threat than that posed by Pearse Og as Maghery will have a real go at causing the upset.

St Pat’s to secure their place in a historic first Senior final

St. Patrick’s v Ballymacnab

An interesting second semi-final features Ballymacnab, the defeated 2011 finalists taking on a St Patrick’s,Cullyhanna side hoping to cap their 125 celebrations with a first ever County Final appearance. Fortunate to get past Whitecross 2-8 to 1-7, courtesy of two Aidan Nugent goals, St Pat’s were far more impressive in dismissing the challenge of Sarsfields 2-12 to 1-11 in the quarter-final.

Ballymacnab finished well against a numerically reduced Culloville 1-17 to 1-11 to set a parish derby with Granemore who had ousted a very fancied Armagh Harps 1-13 to 1-7. Once Rory Grugan goaled late in the first half Ballymacnab controlled a disappointing derby clash as they eased to a 1-8 to 0-7 victory to book their semi-final berth.

The ‘Nab operating without the talented Gavin McParland have filtered their resources rightly making a number of positional switches that have paid dividends thus far. Michael Began, at number 6 has been impressive all year with Ruairi Gribben also acquitting himself well at full-back. Pauric Gribben and Tony McKee put in good shifts at midfield and can throw in a few scores for good measure. Rory Grugan is the star man in attack ably assisted by his brother Jack, Ryan Kennedy and team Captain Brian McCone.

St Pat’s welcomed back the services of Liam O’Hare for their last championship outing which is a great boost for them. Eugene Casey should also be available for selection following suspension which is another big plus in their quest for that so far elusive final spot. Driven by the deep powerful running of Ciaran McKeever and his midfield partner Barry McConville the Pat’s have kept plugging away and with the explosive talent that is Robbie Tasker in their forward division they have finished very strong in the last 10 minutes of their two championship outings, to secure victories. With former county star Mal Mackin as their target man on the edge of the square, (scoring and setting up a goal for brother Gareth the last day out) the goal scoring instincts of Nugent and the likes of Tony Donnelly to roll off the bench, it is easy to see why the south Armagh side are the favourites to make their own little piece of history.

The tale of this match may hinge on how much ball Ballymacnab can get to their inside forward line, where Pat’s look vulnerable and whether a man marker will be assigned on Rory Grugan. The one think that does not rest easy with St Patrick’s is delivering when fancied, but I feel that they will get enough out of their key players and have a better bench, to secure their place in a historic first Senior final.

Junior Football Championship

Forkhill and Killeavy bow out

The final dreams of the two south Armagh sides, Forkhill and Killeavy Seconds, were convincingly shattered at the penultimate hurdle by Annaghmore and Clonmore. It was the MacIomhair brothers Ciaran and Oisin who did all the damage against Forkhill scoring 2-10 of the team’s 2-15 total. Forkhill were fast out of the blocks registering 3 points inside 2 minutes and looking impressive with Barry Shannon to the fore (5 first half points) only for the first green flag of the day from Oisin to give Annaghmore a huge lift. Four unanswered points towards the end of the half left them only trailing by one 1-5 to 0-9 despite being outplayed but not punished on the scoreboard. It did not take long-10 seconds- for the game changer to arrive as Ciaran plundered his side’s second goal to give Annaghmore a lead they never looked back from. Operating at a higher level all year began to tell in the second half as Forkhill could not match the physical power and strength of their opponents. With midfielder Daniel McQuaid and the elusive Conor McCann linking very well with the “deadly duo” Forkhill simply had no answer as Annaghmore outscored them 1-10 to 0-4 in the second half.

Killeavy Seconds, following two very impressive performances, failed to show on Friday night against Clonmore who eased to a derby final with Annaghmore 0-18 to 0-5. Ahead 0-10 to 0-2 at the short whistle Clonmore were not extended to gain their place in the final.

KILLEAVY SAFE

The replay defeat of St Paul’s by Tir na nOg brought good news to the Killeavy camp as it assured them of their Division League football next year. Relegated in the League St Paul’s needed to win the Intermediate title to retain their League status.

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